10 lessons learned at the World Tour Finals
Originally published on: 30/11/11 11:57
1) Music and tennis? Nice mix.
Those of you who pop in headphones and crank up the Rocky theme tune before stepping on to a tennis court will appreciate that power of music in gearing up both mind and body for a battle royal. But after a week inside the great white bubble by the Thames, we’ve found even greater reason to sing the praises of a pre-match psych-up song. Here’s the scenario – you’re Roger Federer, you’ve just taken your seat after pulling up a break that leaves you serving for the match. Suddenly the lights dim and Coldplay’s ‘Viva La Vida’ blares out around one of the biggest indoor arenas in the world, not dying off until your left foot lines up on the baseline ahead of your moment of glory as the immortal words ‘long live the king’ disappear into silence. Lets be honest, you’re not going to lose serve after that are you?
But he doesn’t mean it, thankfully. Describing his determination to beat Federer for the biggest title of his career before their crunch final, the Frenchman gave a twist to the classic ‘I’ll leave it all out on court’ line with his own, slightly worrying version. “If I have to break both of my two ankles to win, I will do it,” said the former Australian Open finalist. The Muhammad-Ali look-a-like may have floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee in the absorbing three-set final that followed, but he didn’t win. And happily for all concerned his ankles remained intact.
3) Pink shirts are still not cool
‘Real men wear pink’ a deluded few continue to stress but, finally, misguided promoters of girly-coloured shirts on red-blooded males can pipe down thanks to the efforts of everyone’s second favourite Spaniard, David Ferrer. Forced to three sets in a round-robin match he should have won against Tomas Berdych, the diminutive Valencian traded in his white shirt for a fluorescent pink number in the final set, for a bet apparently. Ferrer promptly lost the decider 6-1. I rest my case.
4) The Barclays Ball Kids are a talented bunch
Like umpires, the sign of a great ball kid lies in, well, not noticing them. At the O2 Arena, however, we spotted them a few times. Not for little mistakes or rubbing the players up the wrong way, but for their remarkably quick hands, sublime leaping catches and their military-style entrances that would have put even the Queen’s Regiment to shame. Worth getting in on that if you fit the bill, for sure.
5) Tennis a summer sport? Not on your nelly
It’s official, the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals are changing perceptions of tennis in this country. Those who thought Brits are only interested in rackets and balls for two weeks a year when the sun’s shining over Wimbledon need to take a look at last week’s numbers. The November event (yes, tennis-in-England-in-November) at the O2 Arena drew 250,256 fans during the eight days of competition, with 10 out of 15 sessions filling a capacity crowd of 17,500. The stars loved it too. As well as a host of footballers, London Mayor Boris Johnson was on hand to hold up (ahem, I mean ‘enjoy’) play, while those with royal connections also turned up: Her Royal Highness Princess Beatrice of York for one, and Pippa Middleton; who took time out of her, erm, unfathomably busy schedule to attend.
Talk to any of the top 500 players on the tour and they’ll tell you that for all the hard graft, only the crème de la crème truly earn the mega bucks. But as the prize pot at the dome last week proved, those that do get to the top of the game are royally rewarded for putting in the hard yards. Roger Federer turned up in London last week with well over $60million in prize money to his name, but the Swiss walked away $1,630,000 richer after going undefeated at the O2. Heck even Janko Tipsarevic trotted off with $190,000 for winning one match as an alternate. I don’t know about you, but the last time I won a match (after court hire, plasters, energy drink and travel) I was down -£27.50.
7) The season is (still) long
A groin strain ended Andy Murray’s campaign after just one match. Rafael Nadal hinted at losing passion for the game after all his efforts during the year. Novak Djokovic required so much stretching on his shoulder during practice sessions it’s a wonder his arm is still attached to his body. Even David Ferrer, the unexpected star of the round robin stages, bemoaned the state of his weary limbs. “I’m very tired. I want to stop, but I cant because I have the Davis Cup,” he said, reiterating: “But I’m really tired.” There you have it. For the 148th year in succession, it’s been a long year. Now how about we all stop moaning about it and go on our holidays, eh?
8) You can never eat too much Coq au Vin
Hungry hacks made the most of the excellent media restaurant inside the dome, but the old chicken-in-wine-sauce combo, coq au vin to you and me, was served on at least two separate occasions between sessions. Now we’re not complaining, they fed us like kings, but with all British interest out of the tournament early doors, how about some bangers and mash to keep the home boys happy?
9) There are better times to win a bet
The cold winter months are setting in but Tomas Berdych still lopped all his hair off – in the name of a bet with coach Tomas Krupa after his semi-final showing at the O2 Arena. “Bet is a bet,” the Czech wrote on facebook. “We made one in Wimbledon that if I take part in the Barclays ATP World Tour Finals, win at least one title and 50 matches in this season, my hair is going.” Fair play to the Czech for keeping his word, but Krupa really needs to work on his betting skills. What kind of embarrassment does his charge face by having no hair in the off-season? By January it’ll be creeping back around his ears, by which time Berdych will have escaped the ‘you look like Ivan Ljubicic’ jibes. Shame.
10) There are cheaper ways to buy a locker – and an IPad
The top eight donated the contents of their locker to a charity auction, but which bidder got the best deal? Despite six straight defeats to the Serb in 2011, Rafael Nadal attracted a significantly greater sum than world No.1 Novak Djokovic, with his autographed kit, shoes and rackets going for $14,800 while Djokovic’s sold for $6,900. Andy Murray’s bidder might have thought he got best value for money mind, clinching the Scot’s locker – which included a signed IPad – for $7,200. It’s all for charity of course, but perhaps someone should’ve told the lucky bidder he could have saved $6,500 by snaring an IPad from the high street.